The key to creating a culture of academic integrity in a high school environment is getting everyone in the community to agree that it is a priority. Nobody expects convincing the students to be an easy sell, but who would have thought that the adults in the education system would be standing in the way?
That's what's happening in Nevada right now. A "code of honor" already applies to schools in Nevada, statewide. Now, some state lawmakers want to give that code a little more teeth, by making serial cheaters ineligible for a state scholarship, but top education organizations in Nevada say they are against the idea
Harvey Munford is a retired schoolteacher who joined the Nevada State Assembly. He knows how rampant cheating is in the schools, so he decided to write a law that says the Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship cannot be given to a public high school student who is caught cheating three or more times.
Educators Say Academic Integrity Is Too Much Work
It is hard to imagine who might be against such a law. Unfortunately, it requires no imagination to find out, because three of Nevada's top educational organizations have already announced that they do not support it.
The school district that includes Las Vegas, where one might think cheating would be particularly disturbing, is among them. A representative explained that keeping track of cheaters takes too much time and effort.
The Nevada System of Higher Education based its opposition, in part, on having to notify all the high school students that the requirements for the scholarship changed.
The Nevada Association of School Superintendents expressed concerns about the "mechanics" of enforcing the law as part of its reasoning for opposing the bill.
Buy-In Is Essential In The Honesty Movement
These organizations apparently are worried that it might be too much "extra" work to keep cheaters in high school from being rewarded for cheating by giving them taxpayer money to go to college. Their reaction reveals the priority these educators give to academic integrity, and it doesn't seem to be very high.
Getting faculty and administrators to "buy into" a movement to promote academic integrity ought to be the easy part, but it isn't. Some teachers don't think of monitoring for and reacting to cheating as part of the job description. Some administrators see cheating as an inescapable part of the real world the students will soon enter.
Any hope of changing the culture of education depends upon having those people onboard. The rules don't matter if no one enforces them. Even worse, the fact that the grown-ups don't think cheating is a big deal enforces the students' perceptions that cheating is just a fact of life. That thinking is what creates an educational system where the scholarships can go to the cheater instead of to the student who mastered the material.
Tolerating Cheating Is Also Cheating
Meanwhile, if students are cheating their way through school, how can anyone know whether any real learning is taking place? Without a filter to weed out cheaters, test scores don't reflect anything of meaning. A system that tolerates cheaters is, itself, cheating when it reports its results.
Mr. Munford's efforts in Nevada deserve nationwide attention and support, and Nevada educators need to be encouraged to help him find ways to promote honesty in the classroom.